Any child growing up in the 1960s likely was a fan of Luci's Toyshop.
Any child growing up in the 1960s likely was a fan of Luci's Toyshop. The locally produced television show, which aired live from the WBNS studios daily from 1960 to 1972, featured Luci VanLeeuwen and her cast of hand puppets, most of which were sewn by Luci herself and animated by co-producer Chuck White and his many voices.
The show was wildly popular with children, airing just after the nationally syndicated Captain Kangaroo every weekday. The highlights of the year, however, were Luci's holiday specials.
Shortly after Thanksgiving every year, a segment would be
added called "Santa's Workshop," which featured a wonderful Santa Claus reading "what I want for Christmas" letters from young viewers. The best part, however, was Santa's toy machine, a decorated conveyor belt that would spit
out the latest and greatest toys requested by
the boys and girls, as if they were being created right then and there in the workshop.
"It was a big deal," says White. "Kids were absolutely fascinated by the toy machine. It was the most popular thing we did all year. It got even higher ratings than our news programs, which didn't make management all that happy."
White says he and VanLeeuwen would read the kids' letters and then go out and buy the toys they asked for, usually from Lazarus. Then the next day, some unseen staffer would load the toys on the conveyor as the letters were read by Santa. The toys, White says, would then be donated to places like Children's Hospital and Franklin County Children's Services.